“The measure of a nation’s strength is not in its geographic size, but in how it rises to master these once-in-a-generation moments when they arrive. The challenges in taking on the Presidency of the Council of the European Union are many, but first Malta must take the decisions locally to enable it to regain its credibility and act as Europe’s honest broker,” said Shadow Minister for EU and Foreign Affairs, MEP Roberta Metsola.
Dr Metsola was speaking during a conference she organised on the challenges and opportunities faced by Malta as it takes on the EU Presidency in 2017.
Opening the conference, Dr Metsola led a minute of silence in honour of the memory of murdered UK Member of Parliament Jo Cox, who was killed doing her public duty.
Roberta Metsola said “It is true that the EU is often blamed for many ills, for some of them justifiably so, but for most of them not. The EU is not without its faults, but it is undeniable that it has brought about peace, created jobs and livelihoods, raised living standards and protected environmental norms while increasing security and safeguarding fundamental rights and workers’ rights.
“At the same time, people’s frustrations with the way the EU sometimes functions are understandable. We would be wrong to ignore them. As a MEP, I myself share some of them. I consider myself to be a reformer, so of course, given the choice between fixing a project or shooting it down outright, I would try to fix it.”
Dr Metsola said that “Europe will continue to discuss its role in tackling corruption, tax evasion and overly aggressive, abusive tax avoidance. This should not be used as a disguise for EU tax harmonisation, which would have a disproportionate impact on smaller economies such as ours.
“That said, our citizens demand that more is done to tackle those who abuse systems to the detriment of others – we must deliver solutions without impinging on States’ tax sovereignty.”
The conference was addressed by European Parliament Vice-President Mairead McGuinness, who outlined the important role played by MEPs during a Presidency. Deputy Prime Minister Louis Grech, on his part, highlighted the priorities of Malta’s EU Presidency. The Dutch Ambassador to Malta Joop Nijssen gave an overview of the current Netherlands Presidency, while US Ambassador G. Kathleen Hill spoke about the importance of the transatlantic relationship.
PN leader Simon Busuttil closed the conference by saying that he hoped Malta would have a successful Presidency, but the Panama Papers scandal involving Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri, and the latest shocking allegations surrounding Alfred Mifsud will put Malta under a dark cloud.